Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon Race Report

Caesar Rodney Half Marathon is a gem of a race. It's the oldest road race in the state of Delaware at 48 years old. It's a little over an hour from home, has a field of about 1500 runners, never sells out, great amenities such as long sleeve Brooks technical shirts and a huge post race spread (w/ fresh cut pineapples). To me the course itself is also a gem. They've changed it slightly over the years, but the bottom line has not changed....IT's TOUGH! The first 6 miles is relatively flat w/ some great waterfront running, then the course get's down to business. A series of three tough climbs over the next 3 miles leave your legs SCREAMING by the time you get to the top. Then you have some rolling neighborhood running and a couple of miles of downhill. You get a real gut check in the last 1,000 meters or so...a lung busting, leg breaking climb to the finish. I'd done this race about 4 or 5 times before, so I know what to expect. What I really love about this race is how well it indicates your fitness level. I've found it a great predictor for Boston, so I wanted to see where I was at. The weather was not ideal, but turned out better than the predicted snow and cold. We were treated to the beaming sun, but had to contend with temps in the mid 30's and a pesky wind. My goal was to try to run 6:00 miles for the first half, then pick up the effort for the second half. Last year I had run 1:18:20 (5:58 avg or so) with a huge negative split. I planned to go out faster this year and see if I could hold on. As I toed the line I remembered the signature start for this race, a Civil War Cannon! I held my ears and we were off. I started out in the top 20 and tried to settle in on the fast, downhill first mile. I was treated to a single digit number (#6) from my high finish in last year's race. I saw #5 just in front of me so I tried to pace off of him. First mile was 5:42, a little fast but expected due to the downhill sections. As it flattened out I tried to figure out who I would be running with and who I could work with in these windier sections. The field really thinned out and by the third mile or so and I was basically sitting all alone. My splits were consistently +/-5:55 and I was feeling pretty good. As we approached half way one of the spectators said I was 8th overall and I could see 7th just ahead. As we hit the hills I upped the effort and by mile 7 I had passed the 7th place runner. The three uphill miles were 6:02, 6:04 and 6:04 but man did they feel faster! At this point I was all alone. I could see a pack of 3 about 75 seconds ahead of me and no one behind me. By the time we hit mile 9 my goal was to drop the pace and gut it out to the finish. I clicked off two sub 5:45 miles (#10 & #11) and headed downhill. I could tell I was slowing down but I could taste the finish. I had made it back to the out/back section of the course and I was encouraged by all the runners who were still climbing that were cheering me on. I rounded the corner and mentally prepared for the final climb. I knew I was on pace to better last year's finish so I just pushed. The last two miles were 5:55 or so average and I crossed the line in 1:17:58, 7th overall. I was very happy with my run. It's tough to run solo like that most of the race and it was a great fitness indicator as I progress through the injury recovery. Our group had entered in the team competition so I headed over to watch my teammates climb to the finish. My training partner, Jeff was racing his first half (oddly enough, he's been running for a long time...5k's through marathons). I spotted him about 300m from the finish starting to slack off....I yelled and ran next to him....and he made it across the line in 1:21:56! My brother also had a great race, he hadn't planned on racing it nor really trained for it but still PR'd in his thrid half marathon at 1:30:53. Our team would go on to win the men's open division!! As far as nutrition went. I had a Clif Bar and banana on the way there and finished off a bottle of Fruit Punch EFS. Didn't take anything during the race, it was too cold. I'm excited to fine tune the legs over the next three weeks before Boston and see what I got on Patriot's Day! Also, big thanks to my Mom and Jim for watching the kids (and the dogs!).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Fun

This past weekend Lauren was attending a course in Frederick MD. It was the weekend before Joshua's birthday and he's been into cars lately. So I told he and Autumn that I would take them to Grandview Speedway to watch their free to the public open practice. Grandview is a 1/3 mile dirt oval where they race a few different types of cars. It sounded like a great idea when I offered it to them....I pictured a bright, sunny, warm Spring day sitting in the bleachers. Also figured that since it was free if it was too loud or if they were scared we could leave at any time. Well, Spring has forgotten to show up and we were treaty to sunny, windy day with air temps in the mid 30's. They said they still wanted to go (probably just to get out of the house since Mommy was away) so I bundled them (and myself) up, grabbed some blankets and we were off. I figured if we made it 15 minutes it was a success. As we got there and they heard the cars speeding by, Joshua got real excited. I think he forgot about the cold. Once we got into our seats and got covered by our blanket he was staring in amazement! I had spent many many nights there watching racing (I know what you're thinking...and you're right) so it was cool to see him (and Autumn) so into it. I was asking them every 5 minutes if they were cold and all I got was a quick "no". 90 minutes later I got the first "yes". So we grabbed our stuff and I walked them over to watcht he pit area. They loved it! The mission was a success, now they can't wait to go back (good news for daddy)! So on the way home we just so happened to pass "Longacres Dairy". The home of some awesome fresh homemade ice cream. The cold weather wasn't bringing us down, so we pulled in. After enjoying some great Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream the kids couldn't wait to go outside in the cold and play on the tot toys. So they did.....
(Keep in mind, it's about 35 degrees out!)

So we got home and the had a fun day getting warm and playing with their imaginary friends below....
I packed up the car (and the dog) and we headed down to my mom's house. We were spending the night there so I could race the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon on Sunday. The entertainment for the trip was having Walker (our black lab) ride in the passenger seat because it was too cold to ride in the back. Autumn got such a kick out of it.....as did the drivers who passed us!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Birthday Boy & First Race of the Season (Bucks 5K Series UBYMCA)

Joshua's 4th birthday is quickly approaching! We celebrated a little early with family over the weekend. Joshua had a great time and LOVED all of his new presents...all the cool "boy stuff" like a work bench, a matchbox track, John Deere tractors and Lego's. He's been playing with them every waking moment since Saturday! Here's the happy Birthday Boy blowing out his candles (while holding a lego toy).

Thanks to everyone that came to celebrate with us. His birthday is this coming Monday, I was hoping to take him to see a dirt stock car race this weekend, but the weather may not be cooperating. He and Autumn are excited to go so I hope we can go. Speaking of Autumn, she came home yesterday with her eighth "blue ticket" from school. Blue tickets are positive rewards for children "caught" doing something above and beyond and displaying proper behaviour without being asked. They only had a small number of them out per day so it is an honor to get one. She was so proud, but she's making us poor and Chik Fil-A rich! We told her that as a reward we'll take her out to her choice of dinner every time she gets a blue ticket...little did we know!

On another note, my training has been going well. I am finding it difficult to get the bike training in that I should be for the upcoming Tour of the Battenkill.....between work, swim lessons for the kids, weather, loss of AM daylight and Lauren working late and attending weekend conferences, there's not much time to add heavy training this time of year. I'm sure I'll survive, but as of now my focus is more on running and having a good Boston Marathon.

I did get to race my first race of the year. I wanted to get an idea of where my fitness is after having to take six weeks off earlier this year. It was a local 5k with about 600 runners. I had a big block of 3 days of training the three days before which included a 11mi run w/ 8mi tempo at sub 6:20, a 20mi TT on my road bike in windy weather (59 minutes), a 20 mile run and a 52 mile ride. I knew this wouldn't be a PR by any means, but it would be a good indicator of how my unrecovered legs would hold up.

It was a windy 35 degrees or so at the start. I ran the course to warm up and get some extra miles. I went with shorts, short sleeve shirt, gloves and light beanie. The gun went off and everyone really took off (or I'm just not used to racing 5K's). I started off in 10th-12th place or so. As some of the young guys faded I worked my way to 7th or so. The first section had the wind to your back but I knew I wanted to be in a pack going into the wind. I made two passes into 5th but couldn't bridge the gap to 2,3 & 4 runners (1st place was gone). I soldiered through the wind into mile 1 at about 5:12 or so. Not too bad I though.

The next mile was flat to slightly downhill. I gained a few seconds on the pack ahead, but I didn't want to push too hard and kill myself for the mostly uphill into the wind 3rd mile. Mile 2 was 5:22. I started to catch #4 as #2 and #3 started to pull ahead. I thought I may be able to get him, but his young legs had too much for me on the track. Crossed the line in fifth, 16:47. I was happy considering how much training I've been doing lately. My foot held up well and I hit the course again for a 3 mi cool down.

Overall it was great to be back in the racing scene and gave me some motivation. I also know where I stand for this weekend's Caesar Rodney 1/2 marathon. I'm excited now that the season has started and it seems that my running is coming back.

Just hope it doesn't snow tomorrow!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tampa & the Gasparilla Distance Classic

Last weekend Lauren and I got the winter weather break we much needed in the form of a trip to Tampa, FL for the Gasparilla Distance Classic. It was our second annual trip to the event as pace group leaders. This event has four races packed into two days with total participation well above 26,000. They have a 15K and 5K on Saturday and a half marathon and 8K on Sunday (last year was the last running of the marathon distance race). I was only supposed to pace the 15k and the 1/2 marathon but my foot has been feeling pretty much healed up so when we were asked to pace the 8K it was a no brainer! I continue to be very impressed with the organization of the race as well as the INCREDIBLE expo and the free Michelob Ultra's post race.

We had a great group of pacers and I met some incredible people over the 27.4 miles I covered. One thing that was interesting was that nearly EVERYONE I spoke to was not native to Florida! I always thought Florida was full of "snow birds", but there people of all ages that have permanently fled the northern winters for the warmth of the South. The 6am start of the 1/2 marathon had us up bright and early, but it was great to get started before the sunny 85 degree heat of the day. Here's our crew assembling for the 1/2 marathon.

We had a great view from our hotel looking over the river and into the bay. We were treated to watching some rowing crew's practice, a ray sighting as well as some dolphins! We spend the day on Saturday soaking up the warm sun next to the pool. This shot is looking out onto the University of Tampa campus.
On Sunday after we had lunch and visited with Lauren's dad and Jean we headed over to St. Petersburg to check out the beaches and grab some dinner. We stopped at St. Pete Beach and put our feet into the Gulf then headed over to the bay side to scope out the scenery. On our way out of St. Pete Beach we were stopped for a drawbridge opening to let two sailboats through.
While stopped we had a great view of the bay and all of the activity. Still seemed funny to us that all of these people were out on the water, swimming in the ocean, etc and it was FEBRUARY! In the picture below you can see Tropicana Field, the home of the Tamba Bay Ray's MLB team.
In the far distance you can see the high rise buildings of downtown Tampa which is where we stayed for the race.
So then it was time to return to reality. Our plane landed to a rainy, dark 40 degree day...bummer! On the bright side the days are getting longer and the temps during the day are getting higher, so Spring is on the way. Those few days in the sun will definitely be what I need to get me through to Spring.
The kids had a great time with their cousins and with Mom mom. Lauren and I are truly thankful and indebted to Carolyn and Mike and my mom for letting us sneak away. They were so excited to see us and tell us about all they did and all the fun they had!
Lauren was off of work yesterday, so I decided to take my first bike commute to work of the year. It's light until nearly 6pm now, so I took the long way home and enjoyed some time on the roads.
My legs were shot after the weekend of pacing, two hours on the trainer on Monday, 10 miles of speedwork and a day of bike commuting yesterday. I was glad to once again spend some time with my Recovery Pump last night. What an incredible product!
March will be a big training month as I prepare for the Tour of the Battenkill and get back to running form for Boston. Hopefully also making a return to swimming as I gear up for Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and Half Iron Distance races in June.